Fanart Friday returns, really wishing we used the titles The Basketball Which Kuroko Plays or Recommendation of Mountaineering. C'mon, we used Attack on Titan! Last week, we bundled up and played in the snow with winter-themed fanart, but this week we're taking a trip through the wild and weird world of sports anime and manga! One thing I'll proudly say about Crunchyroll is that I love how much sports anime we license, and I'm even happier to see sports titles like Kuroko's Basketball, Hajime no Ippo, and Ace of the Diamond among our most popular anime.
Sports anime take a lot of the things I love from fighting series: likeable characters, nail-biting cliffhangers, and constant sideline insight and commentary on the action, and all come together for a guaranteed good time. A good sports series shows the author's love and passion for the sport, and can get people who normally aren't into sports in on the fun! Let's get started!
DISCLAIMER: None of the art presented is the property of myself or Crunchyroll. All characters and series are tm and © their respective creators and corporate owners. All art is the creative property of their respective artists. Any artists who wish to have their work removed from this article may contact me, and appropriate action will be immediately taken.
Princess Nine is--if I recall right--one of the first legit sports anime to be brought over to North America, if not the first. Sad thing is, sports titles just weren't all that popular here (because nerds are terrified of sports), but as anime's audience has grown, so too has the interest in sports anime and manga.
I mean, just look at how popular Kuroko's Basketball is! It's a big leap from "here's a cool baseball series that nobody bought" to "just barely out of the top ten most popular anime on this site." Great characters, great action, and it hits that real sweet spot between technical realism and the balls-out insanity of Prince of Tennis and Ring ni Kakero.
Suzuka covers track and field, specifically sprinting and high jumping, but is mainly a romantic comedy. In high school, I managed the track team, so it's always cool seeing manga or anime about stuff I'm familiar with.
I have a weird relationship with baseball--I actually find it to be a very boring sport to watch, but I absolutely cannot resist movies about baseball, or baseball anime and manga. The game itself is incredibly fascinating, focusing on strategy, teamwork, and a well-rounded player skillset. Like many other baseball titles, Ace of Diamond focuses on a pitcher, but gives the rest of the team plenty of screentime as well.
I talked about the real draw of kendo in Way of the Warrior Edition--how it mixes the discipline of martial arts with the teamwork and competitive spirit of sports. Bamboo Blade was a damn fun series that mixed day-to-day high school hijinx with fierce and technical kendo competitions.
Who the hell is this dude? I haven't watched or read Prince of Tennis in years, so I can certainly point out Ryoma hanging out on the right, but everybody else is a blank to me. One great thing about sports series tends to be huge rotating casts, so sometimes a main character can get temporarily sidelined in favor of developing an interesting supporting cast member.
Many times, a martial art designed for killing or incapacitation can be streamlined into a safe(r) competitive format, but even karate can get pretty rough during high-level full-contact bare-knuckle competitions (that's a lot of hyphens). Karate Shoukoushi Kohinata Minoru not only covers bare-knuckle karate, but also kickboxing and MMA, both of which have quite a few traditional karate practitioners.
One of the all-time favorites in the genre, Slam Dunk shows off basketball as a game of finesse and skill, and then makes us follow the klutziest motherf**ker on the planet Earth as he tries to master the game.
While Free! certainly presents itself as hilarious man-candy fangirl bait, it's actually a very good story about the cost of competition between friends, a sport that ties them all together (in this case, swimming), and making every guy you know look down at his gut in shame and immediately start doing crunches.
I will be the first to say that A Knight in the Area has one of the most ludicrously tragic setups for its story, but soccer (or association football, officially)--otherwise known as "the beautiful game"--is always a great showcase of teamwork, strategy, and raw athleticism.
Way back when we announced Yowapeda, my mind immediately snapped back to OverDrive--another cycling anime--and groaned, because OverDrive kinda sucked. Thankfully, Yowapeda doesn't! Also, whoever's in charge of the anime knows exactly how to place a cliffhanger to generate maximum "why do I have to wait a week for this" rage!
While working on this week's column, I got into a discussion with a friend about whether or not ballet is a sport or art, after she requested Princess Tutu. I was firmly in the "ballet is just performance art" camp, but when you think about it, figure skating, dance competitions, gymnastics, synchornized swimming and even dressage operate on a point system scored by a panel of judges, and all those are considered sports. So do boxing, kickboxing, MMA, and wushu. So fine, yes... ballet is a sport. And it does require more "put your body through hell" athleticism than most other sports.
Emotions tend to run high in sports series, leading to plenty of shipping, and just plain romantic entanglements. American football series Eyeshield 21 (which got its own Fanart Friday a while back) played it more low-key with Hiruma and Mamori, but you know what was going on when everybody else wasn't looking.
In the early days of Viz making a real localized brand out of Shonen Jump, I didn't think sports manga would be making it across the Pacific, but Whistle! proved me wrong. A more realistic soccer series with a lot of heart, it's one of my go-to "feel-good" titles.
And here's my #1 feel-good series, right here! For those of you who are new to Hajime no Ippo, the leaves are a constant reminder of what I feel is the series' motto: "Not everyone who works hard is rewarded, but all those who succeed have worked hard!"
Most sports series focus on the players, but Giant Killing takes a look at the managerial aspect of soccer, and how a former star player has come back to lead his old team to victory. I really need to give this one another watch!
I'm normally not a very big fan of motorsports (sorry, Humberto), but Initial D had me hooked from the start. Instead of drag racing, Initial D and its awesome Eurobeat soundtrack are about downhill drift racing, and really goes into the technicalities of high-level driving. Never, ever watch this show before you go in for your driver's license test.
You'll see it in a lot of high school baseball manga and anime (and, uh... Cromartie High School) and it's no different in Big Windup: setting Koshien as a goal. The pinnacle of national high school baseball in Japan and taking place at the Hanshin Koshien Stadium, regional champion teams fight it out in the single-elimination Japanese High School Baseball Championship.
by ギ ロ
Many of you here know of my disdain for "cute girls doing cute things" shows, and Teekyu is only kinda about tennis, but I've been hearing a lot of good things regarding the show. I'll give it a shot sometime.
I hadn't even heard of Taisho Baseball Girls before a reader requested it last week, but it sounds pretty cool! It deals with a period in history that doesn't get covered very often in anime and manga--1920s Japan--when there were pretty strict expectations of women and how they presented themselves.
And with this, I have officially exhausted my stores of All-Rounder Meguru fanart, at least for now. Appearing in Way of the Warrior Edition alongside Bamboo Blade and Karate Shoukoushi Kohinata Minoru, All-Rounder Meguru goes into the intense multi-discipline training needed to compete in mixed martial arts, which has grown from "human freakshow cockfight" to a real-deal sport with top-level athletes.
Captain Tsubasa is the original sports anime, debuting in 1983 and going absolutely bonkers with the sport of soccer, turning its players into power-kicking superheroes. It's famous all around the world, especially in Latin America, where it's known as Super Campeones.
High school sports are a big deal in Japan, so obviously Capcom's Rival Schools franchise would have a few sports-themed characters! Gorin High School's fighters are all sports-themed, represented by Shoma (baseball), Natsu (volleyball), Roberto (soccer), Nagare (swimming), and Momo (tennis)!
It's safe to consider Encouragement of Climb a sports series on the same level as Teekyu--while the story is more about the girls and their interactions, hiking and mountaineering are both demanding sports that require no small amount of effort and dedication.
Let's end on the age-old "who would win" note, pitting Kuroko's Kagami and Aomine against Slam Dunk's Sakuragi and Rukawa! While Aomine's a freak of nature (and Kagami's not far behind), Sakuragi and Rukawa have an awesome team dynamic, and are much more experienced players in general. Also, Sakuragi's (eventually) not afraid to ram into somebody if he needs to!
And there's the final whistle! There's no way I could have included everything--what are your favorite sports titles? Sound off in the comments!
Your work is always welcome on Fanart Friday, regardless of your skill level or experience, so don't be shy! Just PM me a link to your work, and I'll make sure to include it in a future installment! For those of you wanting to submit something, here are the next three installments of Fanart Friday:
-Next week, on DECEMBER 20th, we celebrate CHRISTMAS a little early, looking for fanart of our favorite characters celebrating the holidays! Anything goes this week, so I'll try and meet as many requests as I can! THIS IS THE ONLY THEME I'M TAKING REQUESTS FOR THIS WEEK!
-Then, on DECEMBER 27th, we wrap up our holiday cheer with a look at FAMILY, and what it means to different characters in different stories. Blood isn't always thicker than water!
-On JANUARY 3rd, we ring in the new year with what's becoming a Fanart Friday New Year's standard: HOME LIBRARY EDITION returns, poking through Crunchyroll's anime catalog for viewing recommendations!
Thanks again for coming by to check out Fanart Friday! Have a great weekend, stay safe, and have fun watching The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug!